Cabinet backs down: No Chanukah restrictions, but lockdown on horizon

Plans for limiting movement during the eight-day Chanukah holiday are scrapped, but lockdown in three weeks if infection rate doesn’t drop.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Israeli government backed down Thursday from imposing a nightly curfew during the Chanukah holiday, deciding instead to plan for imposing tighter measures if the daily infection rate goes up to about 2,500 new cases.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the cabinet, but instead of imposing the evening closure, the government chose instead to set a goal of lowering of the infection rate and reducing the number of new cases a day to less than 1,000.

With objections growing from both health officials and within the cabinet, the government decided Wednesday to try to restrict Israelis from visiting other homes during the Chanukah holiday, when families gather each evening to light candles to commemorate the holiday. That plan proved impossible to enforce, so the entire idea of restricting movement was scrapped.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 1,849 new cases of coronavirus in the past day, with the number of active cases in Israel rising to 15,997 – double the number from one month ago. Of the 575 Israeli hospitalized with the coronavirus, 321 are listed in serious condition, and the death toll stands at 2,937 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein met the heads of Israel’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to discuss preparations for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines that is set to begin December 27.

Netanyahu said the vaccination campaign was being done through the HMOs “to give us the organizational and logistical capacity, and of course to give vaccines to the whole population.”

“Our intention is to give 60,000 vaccines a day,” Netanyahu said. “These are goals that are difficult, but they are achievable. We trust you.”

The first delivery of vaccines produced by the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer arrived in Israel on Wedesday, with some two million does of vaccine expected to arrive by the end of the month.